Through a public-private partnership, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation replaced more than 550 small bridges across the state in just under three years.
Now, PennDOT hopes to do the same to address major bridges statewide.
“A lot of these bridges were designed in the ‘50s and built in the ‘60s, and they’re coming up on the end of their useful lives,” said Ken McClain, director for PennDOT’s Alternative Funding Program. “They were designed to accommodate traffic in the 1950s — trucks are larger today, vehicles travel faster today, so we’re making sure that we make road improvements to help with safety as well.”
McClain said PennDOT will target the replacement of bridges on interstates and expressways. Pennsylvania’s interstate highways carry 25% of the state’s total traffic volume, he said.
“It’s not an option for us to allow these bridges to get into a state of disrepair to the point that they’re weight-restricted or closed,” he said.
However, PennDOT already has a host of projects in its pipeline, and McClain said paying for them out of the state’s existing Motor License Fund would come at the expense of those other projects.
Private equity can be leveraged through public-private partnerships, and tolls can be implemented to raise money — thanks to Act 88 of 2012, he said.
“A lot of these bridges are very, very large, very, very costly and quite honestly, our existing funding streams can’t support (that scale of project),” McClain said.
That means PennDOT officials will seek to spread projects out across the state, “so there aren’t user fees assessed too harshly in any one area of the state,” he said.